Hollyoaks fans reveal how show saved their lives in spin-off series

Hollyoaks will explore the real-life stories that inspired the serial drama’s biggest issues in a brand new digital series.

The five-part show, entitled Hollyoaks: IRL, will feature viewers of the Channel 4 soap whose lives have been forever changed by watching the popular serial, as well as individuals whose lived experiences helped shape some of the show’s most important and talked about storylines.

Five short films will explore individual’s experiences of depression and suicide, county lines child exploitation, disability, eating disorders and conversion therapy, all of which have featured in recent high-profile Hollyoaks storylines.

The real-life stories, however, are now being told together on-screen for the first time. 

Each episode of Hollyoaks: IRL will premiere with a sneak preview on Snapchat Discover on Tuesdays, with the full episodes available across Channel 4 socials every Wednesday.

Kicking off on Tuesday June 15, the series launches during Men’s Mental Health Week with the story of John Junior, whose life was saved after watching a male mental health and suicide storyline in which Ashley Taylor Dawson, who plays Darren Osborne, featured. 

In Hollyoaks: IRL, Stopping my Suicide; we meet John Junior who had planned to take their own life but stopped after watching Hollyoaks and seeing the devastating impact of much-loved character Kyle Kelly’s (Adam Rickitt) suicide on his loved ones, including best friend Darren and his fiancée, Nancy (Jessica Fox).

Hollyoaks became aware of John Junior’s experiences after they called BBC Radio Five Live to document what had happened and their subsequent recovery. John Junior meets actor Ashley in person for the first time, in truly emotional scenes.

Josh Connolly, meanwhile, will speak to actor Billy Price, who portrays Sid Sumner, about his escape from county lines drug dealers and how it turned his life around and cemented his future as a mental health campaigner.

Monique Jarett will talk through the shared experience of being an artiste with a disability and the importance of positive representation of disability in TV and film, with Summer Ranger actress Rhiannon Clements.

Ben Robinson shares with Nadine Mulkerrin, aka Cleo McQueen, his experiences of having an eating disorder, a storyline also portrayed by Nadine’s character in the soap.

And Justin Beck opens up to Ross Adams, who plays Scott Drinkwell in the Channel 4 soap, about his own experience of gay conversion therapy and the steps he took to recover from the trauma.

Lucy Allan, Hollyoaks Executive Producer, said: ‘Hollyoaks storylines are born out of a range of diverse places, we scrutinise research from charities about the new issues that our youthful audience may be experiencing, or could be in the near future and the personal stories that our writers bring to the table. Issues that are affecting their lives, or those of loved ones, friends and neighbours.

‘Some of these films follow how people’s lives have been changed by what they have watched on Hollyoaks and other contributors’ stories have played out on screen, following the moving testimonials they have shared with us. 

‘Either way, there is a real-life connection to our fictional world of Hollyoaks. We hope that by hearing these stories people can connect – and if needed find help and support in these often-isolating times.

‘The multi-platform support we have from Lime Digital is vital to Hollyoaks and we are thrilled that they are telling the real-life stories that make Hollyoaks so authentic.”

Joe Churchill, Digital Commissioning Exec at Channel 4′ said: “Hollyoaks is well known for its sensitive handling of hard hitting issues, so it’s incredible to be able to shine a light on some of the people whose lives have been impacted by  the issues reflected on screen.

‘Behind every storyline there are thousands of these true stories and we hope these inspiring portraits will touch hearts, spark conversation and open minds.

Hollyoaks: IRL launches on Snap on Tuesday evenings from June 15, and is released on Hollyoaks platforms on Wednesdays.

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